Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slightly Awkward Reading

I'm in the middle of My Brother's Keeper by Marcia Davenport, which is a novel based on the real-life Collyer brothers case. Regular readers of this blog will remember that this is the book I decided to buy in first edition form, which equals spending an incredible (for me) amount of money.

Things were going well when I started the book. One chapter called for another. Davenport reminds me of Taylor Caldwell, except her style is slightly cleaner, a little more straightforward, and it's interesting to see how she takes the reader step-by-step through the life of the Holt brothers. The tragic way they ended up is covered in the prologue, and she answers the inevitable question, How the hell did this happen? admirably and entertainingly. Sometimes the best fun is to settle back with a book and know you're in the capable hands of a consummate storyteller.

So, there I was, settled back and blissfully entertained. I'd just read page 186 and I was on optical cruise control. I also knew that I'd have to shut it down in a few minutes because sleep was beckoning, although I was trying to fight it off till the end of the chapter.

Suddenly, I had the feeling that what I'd read before was really familiar. Was Randall Holt revisiting old worries and regrets? If he was, this had to be a sign of impending madness, because it seemed like he was revisiting word-for-word. But wait... so was the omniscient narrator!


I turned back to the section where I felt I'd encountered the scene before. Page 155. Flipping back to page 187, I noticed that it wasn't 187, but page 155 again! No wonder it all sounded familiar. Flipping forward, there was 156 again, then 157, and so on until I got to page 186 again. Then the book jumped to page 219. Sleep was forgotten. I turned each page of the remainder of the novel. Pages 219 to the end, page 457, were present and accounted for. Since I was on the last page of the book, I couldn't help myself; I read the last half-page. Sigh.

A misprinted copy! This must have been part of the very first print run of My Brother's Keeper, and the pages were wrong. Someone must have stopped the presses at some point and made corrections, but who knows how many slipped through and were bound and sold?

Now for coin collectors, mistakes at the mint that get through and are distributed are occasions for jubilation, because one day, these mistakes could be worth thousands of dollars. As far as books go, I'm sure there are some errors that render a book a collectible, but most of the time, misprints are a pain in the ass for readers.

Surprisingly, although I read quite a lot, I hardly ever encounter books with pages missing due to a print error. Pages ripped out, yes. (Remember that episode of M*A*S*H?) These days, what I'm more likely to see are spelling errors and characters whose eyes inexplicably change from brown to blue during the course of the novel.

Turning out the light, I sulked and pouted for a while, then went to sleep castigating myself: What was I doing, trying to be a collector? Why had I let the bibliomanic get the upper hand over the frugal booklover? Better to have bought a ratty-looking paperback copy and enjoyed every single page! Instead, I was the proud owner of a refugee from the damn island of misfit toys!
My Tough And Cool Inner Bookworm tried some lame interjection about this setback being a cakewalk for a *sophisticated* reader. Shut up, I said. I don't want to hear you.

The next day, I pressed on with my reading, my dismay at my copy outweighed by my burning need to know what would happen next to Seymour and Randall Holt. As far as I could tell, the missing 33 pages didn't have any extreme plot twists. However, I was irked that I never found out what illness befell Renata, the Italian opera singer and why she had to convalesce at that farm for several weeks. Why was Randall footing the bill? How did that slightly prissy recluse-in-training know anything about farms, anyway?

I'm not at the end of the book yet, but the misprint incident has a happy ending. Still feeling frustrated, I wrote to the seller yesterday. I knew none of this was the seller's fault; who would take the time to page carefully through each and every book you sell? That would be tedious; that would be someone with no life whatsover.
Feeling like a big whiner, I inquired about the return policy. "I know this isn't your fault," I wrote, "but considering how much I paid for it, this copy is just not acceptable." I writhed with embarassment as I was writing. Not acceptable! God, I feel like such a bitch! Am I a bitch? I'm not a bitch -- honestly I'm not. I just wanna read the whole book.

This happy ending was even happier than I'd hoped for. The seller, Tomjeanice Books, who definitely deserves to be mentioned, really didn't have any idea that My Brother's Keeper was flawed, and was eager to make it right. Luckily, this seller has another first edition of the novel (Wow!) with all the pages intact and in order, which will arrive soon. If you see this seller on Amazon or abebooks, and they have a book you crave, don't hesitate place an order. They're all about great service. I left strong positive feedback on Amazon when the first book arrived, and I'm going to go back and leave more.

That problem solved, now I'm wondering if I can legitimately count My Brother's Keeper as a book read during June since I haven't read the entire book. My Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm says to go for it. My Geeky & Uncool Accounting Inner Bookworm is nagged by those 33 pages. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Oh god, I hope to hell you haven't swapped the book back yet. It's probably worth a fortune! It's the same principle as mis-minted coins or stamps; misprints of books at first edition are worth substantially more than the so-called perfect copies. Get an independent quote before you do anything!

If it's worth more, you can either keep it and watch it appreciate in value, or sell it and use the money to buy the other first edition with a bit left over.

Most people buy first editions to collect the books rather than read them.

tanabata said...

Great story!
Maybe the replacement will arrive before the end of June then your Geeky & Uncool Accounting Inner Bookworm will be appeased. :)

kookie said...

I was thinking the same as Tanabata, but either way, I think it should count for June.

I'm glad you are getting a replacement so easily. I think most booksellers know how important it would be to have a properly printed book. You are lucky they had another first edition in stock.


All but 33 pages read? That should still qualify for your books-I've-read-this-month list. Besides you know you'll read them when the replacement shows up.

Bookfool said...

I'm glad this story had a happy ending. That must have been frustrating. I can't think of books as collectibles; my brain doesn't work that way.

joemmama said...

Oh noooooooooooo...I know how much you wanted this one! It happened to me once but luckily it wasn't a first edition, and the publisher replaced it....and yes it should count for June!

Melwyk said...

I'm with Caitlin; that misprinted first is objectively much more valuable.
Subjectively, though, just for the reading, all the pages are nice. :)

herschelian said...

Of course it counts as a June read, after all, you've read some pages twice!

Bybee said...

I asked the seller if she wanted me to send the novel back. She said to keep it -- she said it's no good to her. She said she can't sell it. I'll hang onto it for now, not knowing what else to do.

Since the seller's been so nice, I decided to give her a break on postage and asked her to send it to my address in the United States, so I won't see the new copy for a few weeks. My Geeky & Uncool Accounting Bookworm will be all freaked out till then.

I nearly fell over when tomjeanice said she had another first edition! This seller will be the one I'll go to when I'm ready to get serious again about my Don Robertson collection.

I was wondering which of my Inner Bookworms you'd agree with! Love your picture. Another great photo by Deborah, right? Now on to writing your blog. (raising imaginary whip) Haven't you noticed the number of people who have visited your profile just to see what that totally hot guy in the sunglasses writes about?

I tried being a collector for a while, but it was no good. I'm too much of a reader.

I guess this is bound to happen every once in a while to bookworms like us. I hope you bore your disappointment in a more dignified manner than I did -- I was worried that when I dropped that first f-bomb, I woke the neighbors!

Won't it be funny if an uncorrected proof on my TBR, Dark Hearts Of Chicago, is in apple-pie order?

It never occured to me that a misprinted copy that wasn't the Bible or one of the other generally accepted great works of literature would be worth anything. What I know about book collecting would fit in a thimble with room to spare.

Maybe I should count it as a complete book for June since my intent to finish was definitely there.

I ate a frittata today. Lots of nice veggies, including kimchi. Delicious. I thought of you.

Dewey said...

Wow, I've never seen this in a novel before. I had an edition of The Joy of Cooking like that, but there's not nearly as much frustration in missing 1/8 or so of the recipes as missing a chunk of narrative!

I would count it as a June book, too.

Kelly said...

I always count the books for the month in which I finished them not when I started them.

Lisa Jean said...

When I worked in the library we would get books like this a few times a year. That and those with the pages put in the covers upside down and backwards. It is really weird to be reading along and suddenly start rereading. Twilight zone stuff.

Melwyk said...

Update - my husband, the book expert, says that a book which is already quite collectible will be greatly increased in value by such a misprint (ie: a first edition Hemingway or some such.) It may add to the curiosity value and slightly increase monetary value if it is not a rare or highly collectible book. SO there you are!